A lush and beautiful island, Jamaica is struggling to overcome
lawlessness which has given it one of the world's highest murder rates
and threatens to jeopardise its tourism industry, the main foreign
Jamaica's political stability, plentiful bauxite
deposits, attractive scenery and rich culture - best known for its
reggae music - contrast with widespread crime and poverty.
Since independence in 1962, power in Jamaica has
alternated between the social-democratic People's National Party and the
conservative Jamaica Labour Party.
While elections have often been marred by violence,
their results have always been accepted and, on the whole, political
institutions have managed to retain their legitimacy.
But political stability has not turned into social and
economic harmony. Contrasting with the luxury tourist resorts are
densely-populated and impoverished ghettos.
The government has at times deployed army units to
suppress violent unrest. There were 1,145 reported murders in 2004 and
there have been accusations of extrajudicial killings by law-enforcers.
Jamaica is the birthplace of Rastafarianism, a
religious movement whose followers venerate the former Ethiopian emperor
Haile Selassie I. Once regarded as a revolutionary threat,
Rastafarianism became a cultural force, promulgated in art and music.
With its roots in the island's ska and rocksteady
forms, reggae made Jamaica a global force in music, with Bob Marley as
its most-famous ambassador.
- Population: 2.7 million (UN, 2004)
- Capital: Kingston
- Area: 10,991 sq km (4,243 sq miles)
- Major language: English
- Major religion: Christianity
- Life expectancy: 74 years (men), 78 years
- Monetary unit: 1 Jamaican dollar = 100 cents
- Main exports: Bauxite, alumina, sugar,
- GNI per capita: US $2,760 (World Bank, 2003)
- Internet domain: .jm
- International dialling code: + 1876
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented
by Governor-General Sir Howard Felix Cooke
Prime minister: Percival James Patterson
PJ Patterson was re-elected to a fourth consecutive
term in October 2002. His People's National Party won 35 seats to the
rival Edward Seaga's Jamaica Labour Party's 25 seats.
Prime Minister Patterson
Born in 1935, he became an active member of the People's National
Party in the 1950s, serving during 1972-80 in a number of portfolios,
including minister of finance and deputy prime minister.
A lawyer by training, Mr Patterson became prime
minister and party leader in 1992 after Michael Manley resigned,
proceeding to win elections in 1993 and 1997.
He has successfully tackled Jamaica's rampant
inflation through tight monetary and fiscal policies, and has sought to
reduce the state's debt by privatising state enterprises.
Mr Patterson has supported moves towards making
Jamaica a republic.
Foreign minister: Keith D Knight
Finance minister: Omar Davis
National security minister: Peter Phillips
Jamaica enjoys a free press and its newspapers
frequently criticise the establishment.
The broadcast media are predominantly commercial and
are open to diverse news and comment. The main newspapers are
BBC Caribbean Service and World Service radio
programmes are available via the BBC 104 FM network.
Gleaner - daily
Observer - daily
Herald - weekly
Television Jamaica Limited (TVJ) - formerly Jamaica Broadcasting
Corporation, it became TVJ when it was privatised in 1997
CVM Television -
Love TV -
Ltd (RJR) - operates three commercial networks:
RJR 94 FM; entertainment station
FAME-FM; music and sports station
Radio 2 FM
Irie FM -
Hot 102 - commercial
KLAS FM - commercial
FM - community
Jampress - government-run